Smart People Have Better Connected Brains

Differences in intelligence have so far mostly been attributed to differences in specific brain regions. However, are smart people’s brains also wired differently to those of less intelligent persons? A new study supports this assumption. In intelligent persons, certain brain regions are more strongly involved in the flow of information between brain regions, while other brain regions are less engaged.

Understanding the foundations of human thought is fascinating for scientists and laypersons alike. Differences in cognitive abilities — and the resulting differences for example in academic success and professional careers — are attributed to a considerable degree to individual differences in intelligence. A study just published in Scientific Reports shows that these differences go hand in hand with differences in the patterns of integration among functional modules of the brain. Kirsten Hilger, Christian Fiebach and Ulrike Basten from the Department of Psychology at Goethe University Frankfurt combined functional MRI brain scans from over 300 persons with modern graph theoretical network analysis methods to investigate the neurobiological basis of human intelligence.

Already in 2015, the same research group published a meta-study in the journal Intelligence, in which they identified brain regions — among them the prefrontal cortex — activation changes of which are reliably associated with individual differences in intelligence. Until recently, however, it was not possible to examine how such ‘intelligence regions’ in the human brain are functionally interconnected.

Earlier this year, the research team reported that in more intelligent persons two brain regions involved in the cognitive processing of task-relevant information (i.e., the anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex) are connected more efficiently to the rest of the brain (2017, Intelligence). Another brain region, the junction area between temporal and parietal cortex that has been related to the shielding of thoughts against irrelevant information, is less strongly connected to the rest of the brain network. “The different topological embedding of these regions into the brain network could make it easier for smarter persons to differentiate between important and irrelevant information — which would be advantageous for many cognitive challenges,” proposes Ulrike Basten, the study’s principle investigator.

In their current study, the researchers take into account that the brain is functionally organized into modules. “This is similar to a social network which consists of multiple sub-networks (e.g., families or circles of friends). Within these sub-networks or modules, the members of one family are more strongly interconnected than they are with people from other families or circles of friends. Our brain is functionally organized in a very similar way: There are sub-networks of brain regions — modules — that are more strongly interconnected among themselves while they have weaker connections to brain regions from other modules. In our study, we examined whether the role of specific brain regions for communication within and among brain modules varies with individual differences in intelligence, i.e., whether a specific brain region supports the information exchange within their own ‘family’ more than information exchange with other ‘families’, and how this relates to individual differences in intelligence.”

The study shows that in more intelligent persons certain brain regions are clearly more strongly involved in the exchange of information between different sub-networks of the brain in order for important information to be communicated quickly and efficiently. On the other hand, the research team also identified brain regions that are more strongly ‘de-coupled’ from the rest of the network in more intelligent people. This may result in better protection against distracting and irrelevant inputs. “We assume that network properties we have found in more intelligent persons help us to focus mentally and to ignore or suppress irrelevant, potentially distracting inputs,” says Basten. The causes of these associations remain an open question at present. “It is possible that due to their biological predispositions, some individuals develop brain networks that favor intelligent behaviors or more challenging cognitive tasks. However, it is equally as likely that the frequent use of the brain for cognitively challenging tasks may positively influence the development of brain networks. Given what we currently know about intelligence, an interplay of both processes seems most likely.”

Melting Ice Makes The Sea Around Greenland Less Saline

For the first time, ocean data from Northeast Greenland reveals the long-term impact of the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. The observed increase in freshwater content will affect the conditions in all Greenland fjords and may ultimately affect the global ocean currents that keep Europe warm.

Today, researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark present a 13-year long time series of data in the journal Nature, Scientific Reports, which shows how the melting ice affects coastal waters in Northeast Greenland.

Over the years, the dramatic meltdown of ice in the Arctic Ocean has received great attention and is easy to observe via satellite images. Also, glaciers have been observed to melt and retreat and the researchers know that today’s meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet has more than doubled compared with the period 1983-2003. How the increased influx of fresh water will affect the marine environment is, however, largely unknown.

Now, unique annual measurements made within the framework of the ‘Greenland Ecosystem Monitoring Program’ since 2003 in Northeast Greenland tell a clear tale — fresh water from the ice sheet accumulates in the surface layers of the surrounding sea and flows into the Greenland fjords.

The measurements were made in Young Sound and in the sea outside Young Sound. Here, the long time series shows that the surface water layers became up to 1.5 per mill less saline during the measurement period. The is equivalent to an increase in freshwate content from approximately 1 m in 2003 to almost 4 m in 2015!

Part of the fresh water likely originates from melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet north of the Young Sound and is transported with the East Greenland ocean current along the eastern coast of Greenland.

From the ocean, the fresh water flows into the Greenland fjords where is influence local circulation with impacts on the production and ecosystem structure. More fresh water in the surface water layers makes it harder for the nutrient-rich bottom water to rise to the upper layers where the sunlight ensures the production of plankton algae in summer.

Plankton algae form the basis for all life in the sea and a lower production of algae will result in a lower production of fish. Today, fishing constitutes approx. 88% of Greenland’s exports.

Melting of the ice sheet in Northeast Greenland is significantly lower than in southern and western Greenland, and the researchers warn that the effects may be far more dramatic in other parts of the Greenland coastal waters than in Young Sound.

At a global scale, the increased melting of the ice sheet contributes to rising sea level and may impact global ocean circulation patterns through the so-called ‘thermohaline circulation’ that sustains among others, the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe warm.

UPDATE: NASA Heightened Concerns of Cosmic Ray Influence on Humans and Earth

SpaceX, is a Commercial Resupply Service (CRS-12) mission to the International Space Station  (ISS) currently manifested to be launched on August 13th, 2017. The mission was contracted by NASA and is flown by SpaceX. It will fly the new Dragon capsule. The Falcon 9 rocket’s reusable first stage will attempt a controlled landing on Landing Zone 1 (LZ1) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Its main mission is to measure dangerous, life-threatening galactic cosmic rays. This project, called the Cosmic-Ray Energetics and Mass investigation (CREAM), features instruments to measure the charges of cosmic rays ranging from hydrogen nuclei up through iron nuclei, over a broad energy range. Researchers report once the ISS astronauts unpack it, the modified balloon-borne device will be placed on the Japanese Exposed Facility for a period of at least three years.

Here is the ‘rub’, a word now popularly use in broadcast news, NASA highlights the very real danger astronauts and cosmonauts will face is the serious consequences from exposure to high-energy galactic cosmic rays, including direct damage to DNA and changes in the biochemistry of cells and tissues.

According to principal investigator Eun-Suk Seo of the University of Maryland Institute for Physical Science and Technology: Seo, says: “People on Earth are protected from these rays by the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field”. But what has not been taken into account is the current 14% increase of cosmic ray measurements in just over that last 24 months. Additionally, the quickening rate of Earth’s magnetic field weakening of which both indicators the dangers to humans and Earth are already in-play.

CREAM experiments conducted in six balloon flights at 25-mile (40-kilometer) altitudes over Antarctica have yielded a limited understanding of galactic cosmic rays. More study is needed to better understand the time-linked-means of how and at what pace the GCRs begin to have a measurable effect on our lives and planet in the years to come. The established three-year CREAM mission aboard the space station will significantly expand knowledge of cosmic radiation and what it might take to protect interplanetary travelers in the future.

Military Application:

One final project onboard SpaceX cargo is provided by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Army Forces Strategic Command. Chip Hardy, the program manager for the “Kestrel Eye” program, presented an overview of providing real-time information to ground troops regarding enemy location and movement.

Kestrel Eye’s purpose, he said, is to “reduce tactical surprise” and “achieve overmatch at the squad level” by demonstrating operational prototype nanosatellites that make it possible to capture space-based tactical-level intelligence and situational awareness and make synchronized mission-command decisions on the move.

The Causal Effect Between Cosmic Rays – Geo-Physical and Bio-Psycho-Social Outcome

Here in Part-II, I will enhance the understanding of the causal effect between (charged particles) cosmic rays associated with a) geo-physical i.e. earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes etc. and  b) bio-psycho-social i.e. depression, disorientation, anxiety, and depression turned inward ‘rage’.

My research suggests during the period eclipse transition, which I surmise to have a process of expansion and contraction prior to and after its apex. In this case that would be Aug. 21 2017. As associated with transitional sequence, I suggest there are periods of significant cosmic ray fluctuation. This process would be in addition and co-occurring with periods of rapid temperature flux closest to the apex event.

In a coming article, I will explain the causal effects mostly related to geo-physical occurrences, which I expect to begin next week. Watch for my reports as they occur. In this article my focus remains on charged particles effect on humans and how this could be the basis for a presumed connection to civil unrest and war.

To best convey the connection between cosmic rays and humans is to present how medical procedures are being used today to treat an assortment of mental health diagnosis such as depression, ADD, bi-polar, anxiety, and ptsd. It has also been effective for dementia and other memory problems like concussions and (TBI) traumatic brain injury often associated with combat veterans from explosives.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) involves the use of a magnetic coil which produces a magnetic field and placing it against the scalp. Capacitors from the TMS machine pass electrical currents through the coils that create brief, pulsating magnetic fields that pass through the skull and create electric currents in the neurons or nerve cells of the brain. Charged particles created by the electromagnetic field releases natural brain chemistry in neurons and synaptic receptors.

The choice of stimulation parameters determines whether the effects of stimulation are excitatory or inhibitory. For example, two single pulses separated by less than 5 milliseconds can produce intracortical inhibition, while two single pulses separated by a gap greater than 10 and less than 30 milliseconds can produce intracortical facilitation.

This accounts for the reason some people may experience feelings of increased energy, hyperactive, or anxious during the duration of a powerful CME (coronal mass ejection) or large X-class solar flare – while others express feelings of depression, lethargy, or disoriented.

I hope this best explains how the fluctuation of charged particles in the way of cosmic rays (and solar rays) can have a direct causal effect on humans. Furthermore, how the expansion and contraction of charged particles influenced by a full solar eclipse can set a template of for civil unrest and war motivated by fear and disorientation.

Thank you for your continued support.

Coming Next: How the same fluctuation of charged particles that can elicit human emotional discord, can produce a discord of its own with Earth in the way of tectonic shift and mantle plume instability giving way to dramatic earth changing events.

 

Aftermath of the Permian – Triassic Mass Extinction

A new study of fossil fishes from Middle Triassic sediments on the shores of Lake Lugano provides new insights into the recovery of biodiversity following the great mass extinction event at the Permian-Triassic boundary 240 million years ago.

permian-triassic_mass_extinction

The largest episode of mass extinction in the history of the Earth, which led to the demise of about 90% of marine organisms and a majority of terrestrial species, took place between the Late Permian and Early Triassic, around 240 million years ago. How long it took for biological communities to recover from such a catastrophic loss of biodiversity remains the subject of controversial debate among paleontologists.

A new study of fossil fishes from Middle Triassic strata on the shores of Lake Lugano throws new light on the issue. The study, undertaken by researchers led by Dr. Adriana López-Arbarello, who is a member of the GeoBiocenter at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich and the Bavarian State Collection for Paleontology and Geology, suggests that the process of recovery was well underway within a few million years. The authors, including Dr. Heinz Furrer of Zurich University and Dr. Rudolf Stockar of the Museo Cantonale di Storia Naturale in Lugano, who led the excavations at the sites, and Dr. Toni Bürgin of the Naturmuseum St. Gallen report their findings in the journal PeerJ.

The fossil fishes analyzed by López-Arbarello and her colleagues originate from Monte San Giorgio in the canton Ticino in Switzerland, which is one of the most important sources of marine fossils from the Middle Triassic in the world. The Monte San Giorgio rises to an altitude of 1000 m on the promontory that separates the southern arms of Lake Lugano in the Southern Swiss Alps. But in the Middle Triassic, it was part of a shallow basin dotted with islands fringed by lagoons, which were separated by reefs from the open sea. “The particular significance of its fossil fauna lies in the careful stratigraphic work that has accompanied the excavations here.

The positions of each of the fossil finds discovered here have been documented to the centimeter,” says Adriana López-Arbarello. On the basis of detailed anatomical studies of new material and a taxonomic re-evaluation of previously known specimens from the locality, she and her colleagues have identified a new genus of fossil neopterygians, which they name Ticinolepis. The Neopterygii include the teleost fishes, which account for more than half of all extant vertebrate species. However, the new fossil species are assigned to the second major group of neopterygians, the Holostei, of which only a handful of species survives today. The researchers assign two new fossil species to the genus Ticinolepis, namely T. longaeva and T. crassidens, which occur in different sedimentary beds within the so-called Besano Formation on Monte San Giorgio.

The two species coexisted side by side but they occupied distinct ecological niches. T. crassidens fed on mollusks and was equipped with jaws and teeth that could handle their hard calcareous shells. T. longaeva was more of a generalist, and was found in waters in which T. crassidens could not survive. The authors interpret the different distribution patterns as a reflection of changing environmental conditions following the preceding mass extinction event.

The less specialized T. longaeva was able to exploit a broader range of food items, and could thus adapt more flexibly to fluctuating conditions. On the other hand, the dietary differentiation between the two species indicates that a variety of well-established ecosystems was available in the Besano Formation at this time. “This in turn suggests that the marine biota is likely to have recovered from the great mass extinction relatively quickly,” Adriana López-Arbarello concludes.

New Study Proposes Short and Long Process of Extinction

A new study of nearly 22,000 fossils finds that ancient plankton communities began changing in important ways as much as 400,000 years before massive die-offs ensued during the first of Earth’s five great extinctions.

plankton

The research, published July 18 in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focused on large zooplankton called graptolites. It suggests that the effects of environmental degradation can be subtle until they reach a tipping point, at which dramatic declines in population begins.

“In looking at these organisms, what we saw was a disruption of community structures – the way in which the plankton were organized in the water column. Communities came to be less complex and dominated by fewer species well before the massive extinction itself,” says co-author H. David Sheets, PhD, professor of physics at Canisius College and associate research professor in the Evolution, Ecology and Behavior graduate program at the University at Buffalo.

This turmoil, occurring in a time of ancient climate change, could hold lessons for the modern world, says co-author Charles E. Mitchell, PhD, professor of geology in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences.

The shifts took place at the end of the Ordovician Period some 450 million years ago as the planet transitioned from a warm era into a cooler one, leading eventually to glaciation and lower sea levels.

“Our research suggests that ecosystems often respond in stepwise and mostly predictable ways to changes in the physical environment – until they can’t. Then we see much larger, more abrupt, and ecologically disruptive changes,” Mitchell says. “The nature of such tipping point effects are hard to foresee and, at least in this case, they led to large and permanent changes in the composition of the oceans’ living communities.

“I think we need to be quite concerned about where our current ocean communities may be headed or we may find ourselves at the tail end of a similar event – a sixth mass extinction, living in a very different world than we would like.” The study was a partnership between Canisius, UB, St. Francis Xavier University, Dalhousie University and The Czech Academy of Sciences.

A long slide toward oblivion

In considering mass extinction, there is perhaps the temptation to think of such events as rapid and sudden: At one moment in history, various species are present, and the next they are not.

This might be the conclusion you’d draw if you examined only whether different species of graptolites were present in the fossil record in the years immediately preceding and following the Ordovician extinction.

“If you just looked at whether they were present – if they were there or not – they were there right up to the brink of the extinction,” Sheets says. “But in reality, these communities had begun declining quite a while before species started going extinct.”

The research teased out these details by using 21,946 fossil specimens from areas of Nevada in the U.S. and the Yukon in Canada that were once ancient sea beds to paint a picture of graptolite evolution.

The analysis found that as ocean circulation patterns began to shift hundreds of thousands of years before the Ordovician extinction, graptolite communities that previously included a rich array of both shallow- and deep-sea species began to lose their diversity and complexity.

Deep-water graptolites became progressively rarer in comparison to their shallow-water counterparts, which came to dominate the ocean.

“There was less variety of organisms, and the rare organisms got rarer,” Sheets says. “In the aftermath of a forest fire in the modern world, you might find that there are fewer organisms left – that the ecosystem just doesn’t have the same structure and richness as before. That’s the same pattern we see here.”

The dwindling deep-sea graptolites were species that specialized in obtaining nutrients from low-oxygen zones of the ocean. A decrease in the availability of such habitats may have sparked the creatures’ decline, Sheets and Mitchell say.

“Temperature changes drive deep ocean circulations, and we think the deep-water graptolites lost their habitats as the climate changed,” Sheets says. “As the nature of the oceans shifted, their way of life went away.”

SPECIAL REPORT: Study Shows Weakened Magnetic Field Has No Effect on Avian Compass

Reporting their results in the New Journal of Physics, scientists have taken a step forward in unraveling the inner workings of the avian compass – a puzzle that has captivated researchers for decades. The team, led by a group at Oxford University, is exploring the possibilities of a weakened Earth’s magnetic field would have on living organisms.

avian_magnetoreception_m

Magnetic sensing is a type of sensory perception that has long been studied. Over the past 50 years, scientific studies have shown a wide variety of living organisms have the ability to perceive magnetic fields and can use information from the Earth’s magnetic field in orientation behavior. Examples abound: salmon, sea turtles, spotted newts, lobsters, honeybees, and perhaps us humans, most of which can perceive and utilize geomagnetic field information.

The avian magnetic compass is a complex entity with many surprising properties. The basis for the magnetic sense is located in the eye of the creature, and furthermore, it is light-dependent. The most accepted theory is living organisms or themselves via magnetically sensitive chemical reactions, which take place in proteins known as cryptochromes present in the eyes retina.

avian_magnetoreception1_m

Scientific studies have confirmed that humans do in fact have both magnetite and cryptochromes hardwired as part of our biological makeup. Using an ultrasensitive superconducting magnetometer in a clean-lab environment, scientists have detected the presence of ferromagnetic material in a variety of tissues from the human brain. Magnetic particle extracts from solubilized brain tissues examined with high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, electron diffraction, and elemental analyses identify minerals in the magnetite-maghemite family.

Now the question is, does the weakening Earth’s magnetic field have an effect on living organisms? “The principle that chemical transformations can respond to very weak magnetic fields, known as the radical pair mechanism, is unquestionably genuine,” said Peter Hore, a biophysical chemist at Oxford University, who is heading up the study. “What is not yet proven is whether this mechanism lies at the heart of avian magneto-reception (The ability to perceive magnetic fields).”

Herbal Magnetic Logo_m

According to Hore, probably the most serious stumbling block is whether the spin coherence in the radicals (the short-lived chemical intermediates responsible for the magnetic field effect) could last long enough to allow a magnetic field as weak as the Earth’s to alter the photochemistry of a cryptochrome.

To find out more, the team has built a computational model focusing on the internal magnetic interactions within and between the radicals involved in the process. The simulations allow the scientists to examine the modulation of these interactions caused by thermal fluctuations in the positions of the radicals in their binding sites in the cryptochrome.

Examining the data, the group observes the effect of a weakening Earth magnetic field is sufficient to change the proportion of radical pairs that proceed along two competing chemical reaction pathways. “The effect happens in such a way that the yield of the signaling state of  protein should depend on the direction of the magnetic field with respect to the cryptochrome molecule,” Hore adds. “Furthermore, our results show the loss of coherence caused by certain sorts of internal magnetic interactions and molecular dynamics could actually enhance, rather than degrade, the sensitivity of a cryptochrome-based magnetic compass sensor.”

Device applications
Thinking further ahead, the researchers highlight that their findings could benefit the development of low-cost and more environmentally-friendly electronic devices. “Certain organic semiconductors (OLEDs, for example) exhibit magneto-electro-luminescence or magneto-conductance, the mechanism of which shares essentially identical physics with radical pairs,” said Hore. “I believe there is scope for the design and construction of electronically addressable devices, based on principles learnt from studies of the avian compass, for determining the presence, intensity and direction of weak magnetic fields using cheap, non-toxic organic materials.”